Saturday 31 March 2018

Never Greener by Ruth Jones @TransworldBooks @alisonbarrow #NeverGreener

The past has a habit of tracking us down. And tripping us up.

When Kate was twenty-two, she had an intense and passionate affair with a married man, Callum, which ended in heartbreak. Kate thought she’d never get over it. 

Seventeen years later, life has moved on – Kate, now a successful actress, is living in London, married to Matt and mother to little Tallulah. Meanwhile Callum and his wife Belinda are happy together, living in Edinburgh and watching their kids grow up. The past, it would seem, is well and truly behind them all. 

But then Kate meets Callum again. 

And they are faced with a choice: to walk away from each other . . . or to risk finding out what might have been.

Second chances are a rare gift in life. But that doesn’t mean they should always be taken . . .

Never Greener by Ruth Jones is published by Bantam / Transworld in hardback on 5 April 2018. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Sometimes a book comes along that totally steals my heart away. I become engrossed in the story, the characters begin to take over my life and when I turn that final page, I find myself feeling bereft that I won't be in their company again. Never Greener is one of those books. It's a big fat book filled with writing that is warm, witty and oh so wise.

This is a story of second chances in life. Ruth Jones expertly details just how unexpected a second chance can be as Kate and Callum meet again; seventeen years after the end of a relationship that almost tore both of them apart.

The reader doesn't know everything about the past but is a first-hand witness of the total turmoil that takes place as Kate and Callum reignite their relationship. This author's characterisation is exquisite.
Kate is an actress at the top of her game; she's married to the wonderful Matt and mother to five-year-old Tallulah. Callum is an older guy, a schoolteacher with three grown children, and obviously in love with his wife Belinda. Kate and Callum's lives couldn't be more different, yet when they meet again, all these years later, that spark is still there and despite any attempts to resist, it seems inevitable that the spark will create flames that could destroy so many lives.

I have to admit that Kate's husband Matt and his old friend Hetty were by far my favourite characters and I hurt when Matt hurt and I wanted to cry when he cried. I loved Hetty for her absolute loyalty to him and was desperately sad when even their relationship when awry for a while.
I couldn't and didn't like Kate, even when the author reveals details of her past, I couldn't bring myself to support her. However, this doesn't mean she's not an excellent character - oh, not at all; she's actually wonderfully wicked, spoiled and totally self-centred and perfectly created.

Ruth Jones' writing is so impressive. She captures the everyday lives of her characters, she injects humour and laughter in with the total devastation and sadness, she keeps it incredibly real and believable.

So, is the grass greener on the other side, well I have to urge everyone to buy this, read it and find out how the grass looked for Kate and Callum. It's an absolute stunner of a read, and I just know that this one is going to find a spot in my best reads of the year list.

Ruth Jones is best known for her outstanding and award-winning television writing - BBC 1's Gavin and Stacey, in which she played the incorrigible Nessa, and Sky 1's Stella, in which she played the titular role. 

She has won acclaim for her performances in BBC dramas Tess of the D'UrbervillesLittle Dorritand Hattie, as well as comedies Little Britain, Saxondale and Nighty Night.

Find her Author page on Facebook

Ruth Jones is going on a Book Tour

Friday 30 March 2018

The Smiling Man by Joseph Knox @josephknox__ @DoubledayUK @alisonbarrow @TransworldBooks #TheSmilingMan #Giveaway #Win

From the bestselling author of Sirens, Detective Aidan Waits is on the hunt to find the identity of The Smiling Man.

Disconnected from his history and careless of his future, Detective Aidan Waits has resigned himself to the night shift. An endless cycle of meaningless emergency calls and lonely dead ends. Until he and his partner, Detective Inspector Peter ‘Sutty’ Sutcliffe, are summoned to The Palace, a vast disused hotel in the centre of a restless, simmering city. 

There they find the body of a man. He is dead. 

And he is smiling.

The tags have been removed from the man’s clothes. His teeth filed down and replaced. Even his fingertips are not his own. Only a patch sewn into the inside of his trousers gives any indication as to who he was, and to the desperate last act of his life…

But even as Waits puts together the pieces of this stranger’s life, someone is sifting through the shards of his own. 

When the mysterious fires, anonymous phone calls and outright threats escalate, he realises that a ghost from his own past haunts his every move. 

And to discover the smiling man’s identity, he must finally confront his own.

The Smiling Man by Joseph Knox was published by Doubleday / Transworld on 8 March 2018 and is the second in the Aiden Waits series. I read and reviewed the first book; Sirens, here on Random Things  in January 2017. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

I have a beautiful hardback copy of The Smiling Man to give away to one blog reader. Entry is simple, just fill out the competition widget at the end of this post. The competition will stay open for seven days and is UK ENTRY ONLY.   Good luck!

For me, the sign of a great read is when my copy of the book is bursting with post-it stickers. I used a lot of post-its on this book, in fact there's so many that I have had difficulty in choosing specific phrases to concentrate on.

I adored Joseph Knox's first book, Sirens, and had waited with great anticipation for the next book. Well, if Sirens was great, this one is excellent. I was gripped, completely engrossed from page one.

Joseph Knox is such a competent author; The Smiling Man is urban noir at its very best. The Manchester setting is dangerous and grubby, filled with characters who will haunt your dreams. The story has multiple threads; there's the 'smiling man' of the title; found dead in a disused hotel. Also in there is revenge porn and a stalker, and then there's the mysterious plot line that appears every now and again telling of a small boy and how he's being turned to crime by his family.  A reader could be overwhelmed by the many layers that at first, seem unconnected, but this author weaves and joins with such ease and flair and as the plots progress, the entire story just falls together perfectly.

For me, Joseph Knox's hugest talent is in his character descriptions;
" ..... revealing a narrow bone-white face and a frown. She had short, black hair, gleaming dark marbles for eyes and an almost invisible little paper-cut for a mouth."
"He had a face full of age, hate and booze, and I counted three golden teeth before he closed his mouth again."
"After weeks of unbroken heat he was starting to look and smell like the larval stage for something else entirely"

se characters, so perfectly created, so unexpected and so life like have been living inside my head for the past few days.

The Smiling Man brings us an Aiden Waits who has learned much from the events that made up the story in Sirens. He still has his demons, he's still resented by many of his colleagues and he's still trying to shrug off his addictions and lost love. However, he has shifted and his tenacity and newly emerging self-belief is at the forefront. As Aiden's past is slowly revealed too, the reader can do nothing but fall a little more in love with him despite his recklessness.

The Smiling Man is tightly woven, the plot is complex but hugely satisfying and the sparks of the darkest of humour that flash intermittently throughout add a sparkle that is quite magical.
The characters that populate this story are some of the darkest and most grubby to be found in crime fiction, and that does include the police. Aiden's partner Sutty is a marvellous creation; obsessed with cleanliness but full of dirty tricks and with no apparent compassion or humour.

Set during the searing heat of Summer with Manchester emerging as a character in its own right, The Smiling Man is a modern, dark and suspense filled novel. Joseph Knox is so observant, his writing is fierce, unsettling and so very atmospheric.

Roll on the next in the series, I'm missing Aiden Waits already.

The Smiling Man

Joseph Knox was born and raised in and around Stoke-On-Trent and Manchester, where he worked in bars and bookshops before moving to London. He runs, writes and reads compulsively.

Sirens is his debut novel. His second, The Smiling Man, was released in March, 2018.

Follow him on Twitter @josephknox__

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Dead Watch by Steve Liszka #BlogBlitz @SteveLiszka @Bloodhoundbook #DeadWatch

Life for the firefighters of Red Watch, East Brighton, is already complicated due to the imminent closure of their fire station. But this is soon to be the least of their worries.
When the team stumble upon a car in a ditch, they discover the driver is dead and a bag containing five hundred thousand pounds in cash. Before anyone arrives, the crew decide to take the money, believing it to be a victimless crime.
When they later learn that the driver was killed by a bullet wound to the head their world is turned upside down.
Then a stranger appears at the station claiming the money belongs to him.    
Soon the firefighters are drawn into a dangerous underworld and find themselves at the mercy of violent criminals.
But is this stranger who he claims to be?
And can Red Watch escape with the money and their lives intact?

Dead Watch by Steve Liszka is published by Bloodhound Books this month. I'm really happy to share an extract from the book here on Random Things today, as part of the BlogBlitz for Dead Watch.

Chapter 1
The Bullshit Hour

‘I still don’t see what your fucking problem is,’ the large, angry man said to the person seated next to him. He spoke without bothering to swallow the mouthful of egg sandwich he was chewing. 
   ‘My problem, Len,’ Dylan said cheerfully, ‘is that you have an appalling grasp of the English language.’
   Lenny laughed, ‘My English is just fine sunshine.’
   ‘Really, then let’s go through your previous statement, shall we? You said that you were working on the door, and some geezer started kicking off with the other bouncers.’
   ‘And then, you said that when he saw you, he literally shit himself, and when you told him to fuck off, he literally ran a mile.’ 
   Lenny nodded. ‘Yeah, ‘cos that’s what happened.’
   ‘No, it didn’t,’ Dylan said, ‘that’s my point. You made two factually incorrect statements in the course of one sentence.’
   Lenny looked to the other men sitting around the table who were silently listening to the argument. ‘Seriously, what the fuck is this prick talking about?’
   Dylan sighed. ‘It’s not your fault, Len, you have an incredibly small brain. That’s what happens when there’s too much incest in one family. Chromosomes go missing and shit like that.’
    ‘Really now,’ Lenny said with an air of menace to his voice. ‘I’m going to hurt you in a minute.’
   Dylan held his hands up in defence and smiled. ‘Kidding, silly. So, back to my point, did this guy actually poo himself? I mean, could you smell it?’
   ‘Nah, but he did look pretty shook up.’
   ‘Right, and did he really run a mile? I’m talking the full one thousand six hundred and whatever it is meters.’
   ‘No, but he did leg it down the road a bit.’
   Dylan clapped his hand together, ‘So, there we go. That’s not literal. Its figurative or maybe metaphorical, but definitely not literal.’
   Lenny looked at him blankly.
  ‘It’s like when someone says “I literally couldn’t get out of bed” or “It literally blew my mind.” Unless their head exploded, or they were chained to their bed, they don’t mean literally. That means it actually happened. Do you get what I’m saying?’
   ‘I guess so. But do you get what I’m saying when I tell you that I really don’t give a fuck?’ As Lenny spoke, some of his sandwich shot out of his mouth onto the table.
   Dylan looked hurt. ‘Don’t be like that. I’m just trying to teach you something,
that’s all.’
   ‘Well I don’t want to learn. I’ve learnt enough, thank you very much.’
   Dylan shook his head in mock sadness. ‘You know, there’s nothing sadder than someone whose brain is closed to new things.’
   ‘How about someone who has to eat his dinner through a straw because his jaw is broken in three places?’ Lenny said. ‘That’s pretty sad.’
   ‘True,’ Dylan agreed. ‘But I really think you’re capable of working this one out.’
   ‘Ok then, clever bollocks. You literally are a piece of shit. How’s that?’
  ‘It’s wrong, is what it is. Metaphorically, I’m a piece of shit, but keep going.’
   Lenny rolled his eyes. ‘You’re acting like a dick.’
   ‘And that, my friend, is a simile. Try again.’
   Lenny paused before speaking, like he was testing out his next answer in his mind. ‘I’ve got it! Shut up or I literally am going to smack you in the face really, really fucking hard.’
   ‘Yes!’ Dylan punched the air. ‘He’s got it, by Jove.’
   Lenny stared at him, unimpressed. ‘I’m serious. Pipe down or I’m gonna knock your teeth down your throat.’

Steve has been an operational firefighter for the past seventeen years and it was his job that led to him writing his latest novel Dead Watch. He is based at Preston Circus Fire Station in Brighton, one of the busiest in the South East. Originally from Swansea, Steve now lives in Worthing with his wife Angela and children, Buddy and Sylvie.
Steve has always been an active sports person, competing in rugby, amateur boxing, rock climbing and many other pursuits. For the past ten years, he has run his own old-school outdoor fitness classes using kettlebells, tyres, sledgehammers and various other instruments of torture.
Steve’s first novel This Machine Kills was released in 2012. It is a violent dystopian tale where the country is run by a businessman who wants to build walls around his cities to protect the residents from the poor people outside. As if that would ever happen…
You can follow him on Twitter @SteveLiszka and Facebook 

Tuesday 27 March 2018

10th Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize shortlist @dylanthomprize #IDTP18 @midaspr


10th Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize shortlist announced

Top row L-R: , Kayo Chingonyi, Carmen Maria Machado, Gwendoline Riley
Bottom L-R: Sally Rooney, Emily Ruskovich, Gabriel Tallent,

Four debut authors make up the female dominant shortlist of six for the 10th edition of the Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize which celebrates the brightest young writers in the world. Worth £30,000, it is the world’s largest literary prize for young writers aged 39 or under, open to writers from all nations, writing in English.

2017 sparked this century’s biggest gender equality movement, and this year’s female-led international shortlist brings to the fore crucial themes of sexual violence, toxic relationships, masculinity and racial divisions, that are relevant across the world, not just the UK. Just as Dylan Thomas’ universal poetry captured the grief and loss of innocence in post-war Britain, the prize showcases the breadth and diversity of literature that captures the political zeitgeist of today.

Featured on the shortlist this year are:

  • Zambian-born poet Kayo Chingonyi (31) for his debut collection of poetry Kumakanda, which explores the rites of passage boys go through to become men, the intersection of masculinity and race and what it means to be British and not British, all at once.

  • Cuban-American short-story writer Carmen Maria Machado’s (31) debut short story collection Her Body & Other Parties explores the eroticism, violence and emotion of the female experience through a potent mix of science fiction, ghost stories and fairytales.

  • Six-time British novelist Gwendoline Riley (39) has been shortlisted for First Love, a compelling tale of toxic love and poisonous partnerships which has been shortlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Goldsmiths Prize.

  • Irish debut novelist and Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Sally Rooney (27)has been called the “Salinger for the Snapchat generation” and her runaway successConversations with Friends.

  • Debut American novelist Emily Ruskovich (31) is shortlisted for her thriller hit Idaho, which tells the story of a mother suddenly killing her six-year-old daughter.

  • American thriller author Gabriel Tallent (30) has been shortlisted for his debut novelMy Absolute Darling, called “the year’s must-read novel” by The Times and ‘a masterpiece’ by Stephen King.

2018 will be the 10th edition of The Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize, and will commemorate 65 years since the death of Wales’ most lauded writer Dylan Thomas. The winner will be announced on 10th May.

Awarded for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under, the prize celebrates the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama. The prize is named after the Swansea-born writer Dylan Thomas who died at just 39 years old as one of the most important writers of the 20th century. Dylan captured the attention of the literary world at just 20 years old with his poem Light Breaks Where No Sun Shines, and had already reached international acclaim by the time his most famous work Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night was published. The prize invokes his memory to support the best young writers of today and nurture the talents of tomorrow.

In 2017, Australian writer Fiona McFarlane won The Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize for her highly-acclaimed collection of short stores, The High Places.

Professor Dai Smith CBE of Swansea University, chair of the judges said: "The shortlist of the 2018 Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize is an amazing showcase of young writing talent from across the globe. There are two startling and searing novels from contemporary America; two other novels which engage in a forensic examination of love and loathing, from England  and Ireland; an inventively original collection of short stories from the USA and a challenging, poised work of poetry which takes us to the core of a divided Britain. The judges will have a difficult job over the next two months to find a winner from what is already a list of winners."

Chaired by Professor Dai Smith CBE, Emeritus Raymond Williams Research Chair in the Cultural History of Wales at Swansea University, and historian and writer on Welsh arts and culture, this year’s judging panel also features: Founder and Director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, Namita Gokhale; winner of the inaugural International Dylan Thomas Prize novelist and playwright, Rachel Trezise; poet, translator, and scholar, Professor Kurt Heinzelman; and author and Founder of London Short Story Festival, Paul McVeigh.

The winner will be announced on Thursday 10th May at an award ceremony at Swansea University’s Great Hall, in the run up to International Dylan Thomas Day on 14th May commemorating 65 years since Dylan Thomas’ death. The British Library will be hosting a special public event with all the shortlisted author on Tuesday 8th May.

The shortlisted authors will also participate in the DylanED programme, an initiative set up by Swansea University in conjunction with the prize to engage young people with international literature and Wales’ rich cultural history. The shortlist is directly involved in the programme that runs all year round, and authors have previously done workshops with local college students, given readings and talks at local schools, and given masterclasses at the University. Since 2016 Welsh students are invited to review books from the shortlist for the DylanED Book Review Competition and will present their winning reviews at a special winner’s ceremony in front of the shortlisted authors.